Extra! Korea

February 19, 2010

Defectors with cell phones key source of info on N. Korea

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 7:02 am

According to this article by Asahi Shimbun, North Korean defectors, and their cell-phones, are key sources of information about North Korea. For example, the story about the recent currency revaluation was broken and spread in this way.

More than half [of North Korean defectors] are thought to be in regular phone contact with relatives they left behind.

The spread of Chinese-made mobile phones from around 2001 in areas close to China’s border with North Korea proved vital.

North Koreans can connect their mobile phones to Chinese relay stations as long as they are within a few kilometers of the border.

Defectors living in South Korea are said to remit an average 500,000 won (about 39,000 yen, or $430) a year to relatives via brokers.

The mobile phones are necessary to confirm that the money was received.

“People living near the border contact relatives living farther inland,” said one defector. “If the relatives have no phones, someone arranges to bring them near the border.”

At Free North Korea Radio, 10 defectors phone “stringers” living near the Chinese border on a daily basis.

Ha Tae-keung, the president of Open Radio for North Korea, said, “By calling, it is possible to learn about incidents that happened only one or two hours beforehand.”


  1. I think it’s only a matter of time before the authorities start doing something about this. Isn’t it easy to triangulate a signal, even if you’re not in control of the towers (since they’re in China)?

    Comment by kushibo — February 20, 2010 @ 2:22 am

  2. […] talking on a cell phone Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 1:26 pm Remember how key sources of information about North Korea are defectors with cell-phones who communicate with relatives back in their home […]

    Pingback by North Korean executed for talking on a cell phone « Extra! Korea — March 4, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

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